Phones and Bibles

“My main word is, as Stephen F. Olford has often said, that ‘we belong in the study not in the office.’ The symbol of our ministry is a Bible, not a telephone. We are ministers of the Word, not administrators, and we need to relearn the question of priority in every generation.”

These words are attributed to John Stott, who recently went home to be with the Lord.  How true these words are.

Where the clergyman once held a position of honour in the community, we now find ourselves tempted to grasp for respectability and credibility.  So there is a temptation to try to look like the respected folks of the community.  They have increasing education, so we are tempted to flaunt ours, or get extra degrees for the wrong reasons.  They have manic lives, so we are tempted to run around like mad folks looking for an ulcer (who would respect a preacher who is able to choose serenity over stress?)  They have offices, mobile phones and permanent contactability, so we feel we can do no other.

What difference would it make if we stopped playing the busy professional and renewed our commitment to a different calling, to the ministry of the Word and prayer?  If our gut reaction to this idea is to fear loss of credibility, or loss of income, or loss of support from those who think they hold us accountable . . . then we are making decisions out of fear rather than faith.  What does God want of us?  Acts 6:4 is worth pondering in prayer.  Let’s ask Him what He thinks.

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Praise God for Influential Preachers

I just read an article from Preaching magazine –25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years. The title should be “preachers” rather than “pastors” in any strict sense of the term’s current usage. Anyway, it is worth reading.  I’m sure some would be quick to criticise how American the list is, but that is always a cheap and easy critique.  What struck me was how many of these preachers have blessed me in recent years (and I don’t spend much time listing to famous preachers).

I would encourage you to read the article and give thanks for these and other well-known preachers who have faithfully sought to serve God through their ministries.  It is easy to critique the famous, but actually it must be hard to be in their positions, perhaps facing some unique stresses that most of us don’t face.

Perhaps the list might suggest some names that you haven’t heard before, leading you to trawl the web for a sermon by E.K.Bailey, or W.A.Criswell, or Fred Craddock.  Or someone who doesn’t fit in your theological or ecclesiological comfort zone . . . anyone from Adrian Rogers, to Bill Hybels, to William Willimon, to Stephen Olford, to Warren Wiersbe, to Rick Warren, to Jack Hayford, to Tim Keller, etc.  Have you observed Andy Stanley preach?  Have you

Maybe this kind of list has a handful of preachers that you have really been blessed by over the years – stop and give thanks for them.  I’m delighted to see Haddon Robinson on there, I know many who would give thanks for the influence of John Piper in their lives, I have friends who have been so blessed by John Stott, and other friends who have faithfully tuned in to Chuck Swindoll, and of course, there are numerous people I know who would count Billy Graham as the preacher God used to reach them with the gospel.

As with all lists, we could add others who would be on our personal list. Famous, or not, we do well to pause and give thanks for preachers God has used in our lives over the years.  I fondly remember the hours I spent listening to George Verwer messages while going through university – how making a quick meal of pasta could stretch into the afternoon as God dealt with and encouraged me through George’s preaching.  Or the Calvary Chapel preacher whose tapes I would rewind incessantly as I took copious notes in my black chair with my feet on the bed.  Or the seminary prof who preached in class every morning at 8am . . . Bruce Fong it was a pleasure to study God’s Word with you, man O man, what a privilege!